May 1, 2008
David A. Paterson, Governor, State of New York
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Paterson:
The controversy surrounding the Sean Bell case underscores the need for systemic change in the way New York State deals with matters that potentially involve transgressions by police officers.
First, we must constitute a permanent statewide position of Special Prosecutor to litigate cases involving the prosecution of police officers accused of misconduct. Second, we should establish an office of Special Police Investigator with the authority to assign professional law enforcement personnel to safeguard crime scenes for evidence collection and interview witnesses pursuant to any fatal or near-fatal shooting involving police officers. The current system relies on locally elected prosecutors, usually county district attorneys, to prosecute police misconduct cases. This modus operandi ignores the inherent conflict of interest that results from the routine working relationship between any district attorney’s office and the local police. It also overlooks the reality that a district attorney’s office often lacks the necessary expertise and experience to handle cases involving complex police/community relationships. Accountability of police officers who engaged in illegal behavior, especially brutality, is too frequently illusory. The time to confront and ameliorate this problem is now. The time to create a New York State Special Prosecutor is now. I am urging you, therefore, to spearhead a statewide effort to bring about changes in the method of investigation and prosecution of police officers charged with illegal behavior.
Senator Eric Adams
20th Senatorial District
Cc: Denise O’Donnell, Commissioner, NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services,
Assistant Secretary for Criminal Justice
May 1, 2008